Why learning is taking center stage for this former Dell leader

HR and technology have long collided for Kristi Hummel. For more than 25 years, the HR vet has led people strategies for a number of tech-focused companies—from the fast-growing tech firm VCE Corp. to Dell, where she led global HR until this past fall. Hummel joined learning management system provider Skillsoft as chief people officer in September as one of several new appointees to the leadership team after a merger in the summer.

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Hummel is now in the midst of deepening the company’s commitment to its mission by embedding learning throughout its culture. She recently shared her outlook on the learning space in 2022 and beyond, and what role she sees Skillsoft and its people playing in that transformation.

HRE: What was your day one objective when you joined Skillsoft?

Kristi Hummel Skillsoft Chief People Officer
Kristi Hummel

Hummel: I think about the journey companies have been on through COVID and where this whole future of work is taking every company. Coming to Skillsoft was a way that I could participate in that future of work journey in a really different way because it’s a company that’s really on the leading edge of it. So, my first day was all about taking the excitement I had about the product, which I knew from the industry, and this whole concept of learning and starting to lay out a strategy where we actually become a culture of learning—and we’re leading with that, it’s not just our product set.

HRE: Where do you see digital learning headed once the pandemic subsides?

Hummel: Digital learning is going to become learning. Think about the companies of this next era. They have candidate pools that are global now, much more so than they ever have been before. When you’re hiring someone who isn’t physically coming into the office every day, the ping pong table is no longer how you build loyalty and camaraderie. This whole concept of learning and being able to skill and reskill employees no matter where they sit on the globe is the new way companies are starting to look to build their culture and put it into part of their employee value proposition in this new world. That part is really interesting, given that we’re a learning company, and one of the things we’re really harnessed on is actually reskilling our customers and employees.

Read more Insights from a CHRO here.

HRE: How would you describe Skillsoft’s culture—and what impact has the pandemic had on the culture?

Hummel: Because the product set and the history of the company have always been about learning and development, I would describe this company’s culture as being about curiosity. It’s an open, collaborative place filled with people who are really passionate about learning and development. And when I think about the implications of COVID on culture, I think people are just even more passionate because, all of a sudden, digital learning isn’t just a subset of learning; it’s actually the new way companies are going to operate. It’s even forced us to look at our own culture and say, “Have we embraced digital to the extent we’re going to need to in order to lead through this?”

HRE: As a tech firm itself, how is Skillsoft maximizing the use of technology in its people strategies?

Hummel: One of the really interesting things we do is we offer our product [learning experience platform] Percipio to not only our employees but their families as well. That’s an interesting way we use technology to live our culture and [support] our community, the families of team members. Secondly, we’re looking to modernize our own infrastructure in order to continue to support our team members no matter where they are in the world. That’s where we’re focused as we move forward.

See also: 6 questions on the future of L&D with Microsoft’s learning leader

HRE: What are you passionate about outside of work?

Hummel: I have a 10-year-old so I’m passionate about everything my 10-year-old is, which right now is tennis, softball and our new puppy, which is taking up a whole bunch of my time. I always think I need to come up with more interesting hobbies but that really is where I spend my time—on the softball field or watching a tennis match—and loving every minute of it.

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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected]